Celebs coming out with bipolar? Bring it on!
When I tell people I have bipolar these days the response I get is quite different to how it was just a few years ago. The old response was “What’s that?” but nowadays I’m more likely to hear “Catherine Zeta Jones has that!” or “Isn’t Robbie Williams bipolar?” Positive representation of someone with a bipolar disorder can only be a good thing in helping people understand and come to terms with the illness. This is some of my story.
It was late 2006, we were watching Stephen Fry’s “Secret Diary of a Manic Depressive” on Channel 4 and my wife quite simply said “That’s you, that is!”
For the previous ten years I had been treated for depression. I wasn’t depressed all of this time, but you don’t go to the Doc when you’re feeling on top of the world, do you?
During the previous few years, I had lost three senior management jobs for what, I now know was classic bipolar behaviour. When high I often felt full of great new ideas and making important plans, but I ended up doing things with disastrous consequences. At times I was quite delusional, confident that I was going to be Wales’ first management guru, writing books and speaking to a huge audience. At times I would demand and constantly fracture relationships. At other times, I was so low; I could just bury my head in the sand, whilst problems were taking shape around me. The final straw in my last employed role was locking myself in my office and taking a handful of sleeping tablets.
The serious mental illness known as Bipolar Disorder can affect 2% of the UK population. Sometimes known as manic depression, bipolar is characterised by significant mood swings including manic highs and depressive lows. Most of us with the diagnosis experience alternating episodes of mania and depression.
It isn’t just the person with the diagnosis that can be hit by the illness, but partners, children, the extended family as well as work colleagues and friends can be caught in the net. My experience of failing to get a proper diagnosis for so long is fairly typical as many people wait for up to 13 years to get the right diagnosis.
The symptoms can first occur and then reoccur when work, studies, family or emotional pressures are at their greatest. In women it can also be triggered by childbirth or during the menopause. In my case, I’m in my forties, but now that I know about bipolar I can trace episodes going back to my schooldays and believe it was first triggered by a close family bereavement.
The key to coping with bipolar is an early diagnosis, acceptance of the illness and adapting your lifestyle so you are in control as much as possible. Management of the illness can be achieved through strategies involving medication, health care, therapy and self- management. Getting a bipolar disorder diagnosis back in 2007 lifted off a huge burden as I my destructive behaviour in the past made sense. However, I wasn’t sure how to manage my illness.
I had come away from the psychiatrist with a bag of medication – mood stabilisers, antidepressants, antianxiety pills, sleeping tablets and a load of information about help from voluntary organisations that was out of date. During my first year after diagnosis I was experimenting with drugs. It took a while to get the right mix. I faced difficult times as some of the side-effects were very strong, but they do go away in time and I can at least discern what I am feeling or when another bipolar episode is about to come.
By far, the next major milestone after watching Stephen Fry was joining a local self-help group established by Bipolar UK (then known as the Manic Depression Fellowship). It took about six months to work up the courage and confidence to join, but I was really glad I did. A warm welcome and listening to other people’s anecdotes of their bipolar experiences was both comforting and encouraging.
Members of the group told me about self-management training – a weekend learning to identify warning signs and triggers and ways we can be more proactive in managing our symptoms. Also a huge benefit was the opportunity to meet other people with bipolar disorder.
Are celebs coming out with bipolar? Bring it on, I would say. Handled respectfully, famous people with a bipolar disorder can really help to raise awareness and be positive role models for others to follow.
For more information visit Bipolar UK.Tagged in: bipolar, Catherine Zeta-Jones, psychiatrist, Robbie Williams, uk bipolar
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